David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
The Pique Valleys of Work

March 3, 2015

Should higher education prepare students for the workplace?  That is the recurring question reverberating around almost all discussions of college degrees these days.  People who know me are going to be shocked when I say, "damn, right!"  However, my reason will not be what most people expect.  I don't particularly give a hoot as to whether colleges should produce tradesmen or offer degrees that will show a return on investment for student loans.

No, I want college to teach students just how freaking hard work is and can be.  Those of us in education like to promote that failure can be a good thing, a way for students to learn from mistakes.  What I have come to realize is that frustration is a much more common event than failure, and yet most days the average workers -- I don't care if they are managers at McDonald's, accountants for a small company, high school teachers, or college administrators -- will encounter real frustrations at their work that will make them want to bang their heads against the wall.

These frustrations are not as clean as failures.  Failure usually has a fixed end point and a place to pick up pieces and move on.  Frustrations often have no end points, but just seem to be on-going swirls of problems that suck up your time, that beat you down mentally, that lead you to do something differently than you ideally would like.

I am convinced these kinds of work quagmires are everywhere.  When you have worked at several places, you realize that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Instead, you realize that the fertilizer is still there, you just have to figure out where not to step.

So, I was interested if higher education was doing much with "psychology of working" courses.  Not really, at least in the way I am talking about truly understanding how to navigate the day to day frustrations of work.  Instead what we get are versions of the soundbites that litter my LinkedIN feed: how to be a better manager in five steps; four ways an awful manager hurts a company; motivation techniques for the resistant employee.  In addition, a quick Google search gets a hit for Penn State's "Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership of Work."  What about the psychology of the worker bees? Almost everything I see is about fixing a culture, not necessarily finding the healthy way to work through the culture when you don't have the authority to fix it. 

Here's the course I'd like to see offered for every student, probably in their last semester. It would be a required course for all students, but, of course, that would never happen. 

PSYCH399 -- Workplace Vexation

Employees at jobs inevitably have moments when they question the wisdom of their efforts, their colleagues, their leaders, and even their organizations.  PSYCH399 examines the kinds of situational hassles that workers may encounter on the job.  Stress management techniques, coping techniques, affinity-sharing techniques, and problem-solving techniques will be discussed.  Units of study include the following:

I.  Inconsistencies -- Issues of nepotism, rule-breaking, favoritism, and laziness are all addressed.

II. Policies -- Definitions of policies, procedures and practices, as well as their abilities to ease work and to disrupt work, are discussed.

III. Management -- Kinds of managers are presented along with strategies to minimize the irritations associated with each one.

IV. Worker Types -- Kinds of workers are presented along with strategies to minimize the irritations associated with each one.

V. Interactions -- Case studies that mix different managers and/or different workers will be analyzed and action plans to deal with each grouping will be developed.

VI. Ethics and Morals -- As opposed to PHILO150 that addresses ethics and morals from a theoretical and historical perspective, this course addresses the kinds of common ethical and moral quandrays often presented in the workplace environment.  Students will develop their own 5-stage process to subvert their own ethical and moral beliefs to that of the institution.

VI. Coping -- Different coping techniques are presented with both pros and cons; students will develop their own coping chart that shows how they will manage mild annoyances, medium dilemmas, and critical crises.


Don't you think this would be a great class?  For me alone, I have a coping chart that has me completely lose myself in racquetball for mild annoyances, blog for medium dilemmas, and drink heavily for critical crises.

For the record, SMC co-workers, I am not suggesting that anything at my work today prompted this blog.  Now that I have that off my chest -- where is the bourbon?